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Early raw video: House fire with woman trapped in Whitemarsh, PA. Cops grab tools for ventilation & forcible entry.

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Video posted yesterday by  of a fire on October 27 in Whitemarsh Township, PA (Montgomery County) that killed 71-year-old Barbara Conicello and left her husband James with burns. Investigators say the fire was sparked by a space heater. Lincoln Fire Company was first on the scene.

In the video above it appears that police officers are among those grabbing tools and performing ventilation and forceable entry. At 4:06 on the second video (below) the evacuation tone and airhorns are sounded.


A woman is dead and her husband in the hospital after a house fire in Whitemarsh Township.

The fire broke out Saturday around 2:30 p.m. at a home on the 300 block of Roberts Avenue in the Conshohocken section of Whitemarsh.

Kyle Bagenstose, Plymouth-Whitemarsh Patch:

The fire was first reported at 3:30 p.m. as multiple area fire companies responded. One neighbor told Patch that he was the first to call 9-1-1, rushing inside to do so after speaking with the husband, who was able to escape from the house. The neighbor said that the husband was refusing to go to the hospital before learning the condition of his wife, although it is unclear at what point he was actually transported from the scene.

Lincoln Fire Company chief Jay Davis said the fire was already “extensive” by the time responders arrived at the scene. Firefighters tried to access the house on both floors from multiple directions, but were unable to locate a safe point of entry. On at least two occasions after the flames appeared to be out, small fires broke out just below the roof.

Police Chief Mike Beaty said in a statement that crews found Conicello’s husband, 70-year-old James Conicello, who had sustained burn injuries and was found in the rear of the home by police and firefighters. Beaty says “extensive fire was engulfing the entire structure” at the time. 

Conicello was transported to Bryn Mawr Emergency for treatment. A spokeswoman reportedly stated that he was in fair condition. 


Comments - Add Yours

  • Aardvark

    Ventilating before attack lines are ready ??? Perhaps the cop should stick with law enforcement. Unless the victims were right below the windows being taken out, the cop just ruined any chance of a viable rescue by venting and letting the fire run rampant throughout the structure. My 1/2 cents….

    • 95%er

      It ain’t the cops fault.

      Its the IC that let them do it who takes the responsibility for this activity.

      • Clash Man

        One of those in uniform knocking out windows is a fire marshal.


  • 95%er

    This video of evidence of the following:

    a. it appears nobody was in charge who understands fire behavior.
    b. none of the engine company personnel know the concept of rapid line deployment and advancement.
    c. truck company gave up their tools and assignments to the cops.
    d. safety officer was non-evident or scared of cops.
    e. all fires eventually will go out when they run out of fuel.
    f. just because you have pretty fire trucks, nice PPE and call yourself the fire department doesn’t mean that you are firefighters.

    Sorry folks, I know this was very critical. C’mon, this was a workable interior offensive fire attack in a stable non-light weight construction single family dwelling (with a potential life to be saved).

    We got to do better than this. Am I crazy or just sentimental?

  • Cappy

    What an opportunity for a little introspection on how we “would have done it” in our district.

    Opportunities to reinforce some already well known lessons in a working fire like this one are many.
    Lots of btu absorbing/water delivery capicity brought to the scene… parked and underutilized until such time that the staffing was able to catchup to the problem at hand.
    What a reinforcement in smoke reading, fire advancement,fire behavior and limited operations of understaffed fire comopanies this video provides to us all.
    For those of use that are grossly understaffed… what an opportunity to pause and reflect on a “threshold event” that challenges our abilities and causes us to pause and say what if we caught this fire an hour from now in our district?
    Keepum coming Dave. Video like this is why many of us tune in on a very regular basis.I know I will be sharing this as a primer for discussion in our department to better prepare our troop for the fight.

  • Fire21

    Now, that was one deep seated fire! I’m amazed at the quantity and pressure of the smoke!

  • http://none Engine 5er

    Tough to watch. You can’t blame the cops on this one. Atleast they were doing something . . . and nobody stopped them from doing that.

  • FOBS

    Outstanding job by law enforcement officers. Public service at it’s finest.

  • Retired Captain NJ

    Just what you need, a bunch of out of control police officers taking tools away from the truck company, and then opening up a structure without an attack line in place, with a rescue to be made, and conditions going south in a hurry. The fire chief had better get a face to face with the police chief there and get control of his fireground. The PD should be blocking off streets and keeping the curious away from the building. If the PD office is a firefighter he needs to remember which uniform he was wearing and someone needs to pull this guy aside and educate him about fire behavior and coodinated fire attack. In our area we have had problems over the years with PD members did did just what you saw but without using our tools, the three cell maglites will take out a window. The the PD member tries to make entry and we get one of two scenarios, a police officer puking up his guts from smoke exposure or we find the PD member across the street after the backdraft he created by opening up too soon and not in the right place………..

    • Jimmy

      I agree with you, how ever, they was no fire attack, at least for the first 5 min of the two videos. i’m just glad thats not my dept

  • JD

    That was Sad. I hope this is not a paid department.

  • Lt. Larry


    Why is it that every video we see from PA departments are a complete crapshow? Does ANY dept in PA know how to fight fires?

    • He

      Yes, we do.

    • Billy Penn

      Upper Darby..Chester….Bethlehem….Easton….Harrisburg.
      ..Lancaster….York….and numerous others

  • Really

    I just dont understand the reason why it takes so long to get a line in service. It should be a quick strike. As the line is being layed out the crew should be ready to go. The vent prior to enter was not a problem if a crew followed with a line. I might be missing something but why do you not see a sense of urgency? Why are we not acting with purpose. Its really said to watch videos like this, I would have to be medicated if this was my home or my company. Two lines in the door, a search crew and a vent team who gives a side charlie report and preps for VES. Next special grabs the roof and sends a crew interior with hooks. A third line for clean up on the first as crews push up the stairs. I guess its just a dream though.

    And i dont by the BS of stress on the fire ground, what did you think you were going to an ice cream festival? This is a tough job, but it can be gotten.

  • Anonymous

    That was terrible. Pa really needs to merge a significant amount of companies. There are so many ineffective ones in the State that are wasting the taxpayers money.

  • Scooter

    Now that is why you don’t vent unitl you have a hose line ready to make a push. Another sad deployment of a hand line, very sad. 3 min 29 seconds from video starting to get water (assume rig was there wiht guys in yard with air packs), or 2 min 30 seconds from when the fist rig appears and gets water. I don’t even have a problem with the cops venting if limited help and told what windows to break. Strike Da Box! and train train train like you life depends on it….. it does K

  • 8truck

    Wait, but everyone went home……well except the homeowner. I know there are good FD’s in PA but I’ve yet to see one on here.

  • Blue

    What can ya say it’s PA, just send um some more FEMA grants!

  • FIRE CHIEF retired

    now when you see a cop or anyone ventilating prematurely doesn’t it just want to make you go in “shootin” with both guns at a hostage scene ?

  • Hayden

    Hard to watch. Not much else to say.

  • He

    A wise man once said, ” If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything”. That being the case here, I have nothing to say.

  • Mack Seagrave

    Watching the videos on this sight provides a constant reminder that just because folks pay taxes for fire protection doesn’t necessarily mean that it is available to them. This video reinforces the point, probably good at parades and wet downs, but bread and butter operations at a structure fire … not so much.

  • JustSayin’

    THAT’S IT.!!!

    I’VE HAD IT.!!!!

    FIRST, it’s parking in front of the hydrant.!!!

    AND NOW THIS.!!!

    They got to start paying union dues.

  • Joe

    1:06 into first video 3 FF’s with scba’s on, 1:15 of first video at least 2 more with scba’s on arrive with 2nd piece…then theres a FF near the front door with open jacket no scba flinging a handline around with an openbutt…no water until 23 seconds into second video, 4 minutes since first video started………..conditions on arrival were manageable if they just charged the frigging line and made an aggressive attack..lots of white helmets but no direction, JMHO

  • D. Schaefer

    They should have been in that structure within 1:30 its no excuse its a shame that a person lost her life . These fire departments in this state are a joke time after time we see mistakes with these ineffective fire departments something needs to be done to correct this problem.

  • donnie gauthier

    cops should stick to being cops-not firefighters!!! no sense of urgency at all by firefighters. never vent withouthoselines ready.

  • Z71-K9

    We dont know from the video if the PD took tools off the truck. Our PD carries FE tools. Before we beat up the cops, were they directed to do the vent? No one taking command. Very slow line deployment. And lastly FFs getting off the rig not ready. One even goes back to get his helmet.

  • Miles Deep

    Is there an assignment or position in Pa. for Fire video tech? They seem to have the camera ready before getting lines in place or properly laddering the structure.

  • Dick Z. Normis

    Chances are pretty good these “cops” are also members of the volunteer fire company. Not many career departments in southeast PA, so many guys are full or part time cops, or work for ambulance services, anything to wear a uniform and have some “authoritay”. I knew guys who worked for two, three or four little towns or boroughs as part time cops, then volunteered with the local fire company as a hobby. So you end up with scenarios such as this, they’re on duty as a cop, but the big fire comes in so they go into fireman mode knowing they get to “play da hero” in front of all the townsfolk, ex high school girlfriends and people they want to act all bad a$$ in front of. I’d bet there are some Support your local LEO bumper stickers and a few Tools of the Trade tee shirts in their arsenal. Remember, you get what you pay for!!!! Terrible firefighting effort, but they’ve got the really cool light up grille on their fire injin!!!!

    • 8truck

      Sounds about right. Everytime I visit my family in southeast PA I see these exact people.

  • Blake

    1. Take the Nozzle Forward class from Arron Fields, Seattle Fire!
    2. Steve Kerber’s (UL) info about venting before your hand line is in place!
    3. Educate the COPS that they are not equiped to be in the toxic atmosphere close to the fire building. (Fire Smoke Coalition)

  • mark

    Just to add a little perspective, how many videos have we seen where we have firemen walking around a house knocking out every window? Or, KIC’s making comments about how every window should have been taken?

    Definitely a bad fire. Especially if a department doesn’t see much fire. Like Fire 21 said, that’s a ton of unburned fuel with a ton of velocity. In a relatively small compartment. For a long, long time. That was an extremely stubborn, deep-seated fire. Anyone thinks heavy, turbulent smoke out of every window is a bread and butter fire, is dreaming.

    I’m not saying things couldn’t have been done better, just pointing out a different point of view.

    Sort of along the same lines of no one ever giving Chicago crap for PPVPPA or transitional attacks, but it’s stupid for anyone else to use those tactics.

    While on the reading smoke subject, anyone want to add their $.02 regarding victim survivability under those conditions?

    • LFD Capt

      Reading smoke conditions from the outside is not a way to determine a victims chance of survival.

      Patient could have been in a bedroom with door closed, window entact, reducing exposure to toxic smoke.

      As far as the “cops” venting windows, I see comment after comment on here from “fireman” about “taking windows out” “open it up”, so whats the difference. I dont believe in venting just to vent. I am a fireman not a “glass breaker”

      At the end of the day the victim deserved a chance to live, and the “fireman” in this video failed to give them that chance.

      Poor leadership = poor tactics = poor performance

      • mark

        Please don’t take my comment as a suggestion that no attempt at a rescue should have been made. That is not what I intended. I fully understand what you are saying, but still, based on the volume, velocity and color of smoke, there wasn’t much chance that she was alive.

        They should have done better, no doubt.

    • Mack Seagrave

      Mark, I must disagree with your comment implying that this was not a bread and butter fire upon arrival of the F.D.. This is supposed to be what we train for: a structure fire with report of people trapped. Properly sized and supplied attack hand lines (quickly stretched an placed into operation) coupled with properly timed ventilation ahead of the advancing lines would likely have made this a much more manageable fire. Total failure to quickly place the necessary GPM’s on the main body of fire coupled with totally uncontrolled venting by the uniformed bystanders allowed this to become the mess that it did. On top of all that, a human being was killed inside the fire building. I can’t say that she wouldn’t have died regardless of how well (or poorly) the F.D. operated, but this video pretty much shows that she was never given a chance by the F.D.. Hopefully some folks who belong to that department and who have some influence can get the leaders to bring in some knowledgeable fire service instructors who can school the entire dept. from the chief on down in basic fireground operations. Career or volunteer, we are charged with the protection of life and property. Anyone who takes the oath to be a firefighter must commit to learning the job and staying on top of ‘the game’.

      • mark

        I agree Mack. My comment was based on the fact that there was heavy, turbulent smoke showing from every window. Maybe that’s bread and butter for some, but not many departments.

        This was a deep seated fire, as Fire 21 noted. Look how long there was a massive volume of smoke coming from pretty much every opening of this structure for 10 minutes, at least. Better tactics should have helped with this, but not every fire is the same. I am very curious as to what exactly was burning inside this small of a building for that long that produced that much smoke. But everyone’s firesareas are different.

        As I noted, the resident did deserve a better shot at rescue.

        • Mack Seagrave

          Thanks for your reply Mark. I didn’t mean to imply that this was a particularly easy fire to deal with. However, with reports of people trapped, the conditions upon their arrival should have been rapidly addressed via the stretching, positioning and operating of properly sized and supplied attack hose lines along with well timed ventilation ahead of the lines and an agressive search (if possible using info from family / occupants who had exited) relative to probable location of the trapped persons. It cannot be overstated that F.D.’s MUST be familiar with the friction loss charachteristics of the brand and style hose they use as well as the requirements of the type nozzles that are attached. If the nozzle doesn’t receive the proper pressure at the tip, it will not flow its rated GPM’s which can have catastrophic results upon firefighters and trapped persons alike. It is critical (especially in a situation such as this one – superheated swirling smoke under pressure) to rapidly operate a straight (preferably a solid) stream into the upper portion of the room at a 45 degree angle (rotating the stream clockwise or whipping it back and forth) thus cooling the area and lessening the impending flashover condition. The nozzle should not be closed until fire in the area has been knocked down and threats of a flashover diminished. This is not an easy situation to be confronted with but one that can be handled by a well trained and properly equipped fire department. As a side note, it appears that the community may have too many law enforcement on duty (as they were all over the place at the fire scene). Maybe they should rethink the way they distribute the tax dollars and hire some full time firefighting personnel to suppliment the volunteer force.

  • YankeeBoy

    Fire Department – Negligent. Just plain negligent. They should have stayed home, or at work, or in class, or wherever they were when the town siren went off. Had the three, or four, or five fully equipped firefighters been able to perform the MOST BASIC fire ground evolution, i.e. getting ONE attack line in service, this poor lady might have had a chance. Hopefully these guys will learn from this debacle and focus on some fundemental training. Hopefully the local media will sink their teeth into this “red meat” issue. I’m not holding my breath…

    Police Department – At least they did something. I’ll bet the cops would have gotten off a few rounds if this had been a robbery and not stood around loading their clips while the bad guys got away.

    You get what you pay for…

  • play4keeps

    Couple of ideas working backwards, since everyone has an opinion…. absolutely Mark, the victims were probably dead. Blake (Jason?) good points of reference, however, sometimes it is more difficult coordinating vent with attack because the engine and truck officers actually have to talk to each other or go through command. I say don’t be afraid to break a window with that kind of smoke but In this case, yes, it made the fire worse.

    Dick Z, what you have a problem with cops who volly? If you are an off-duty fireman or any other public safety person with training and had a fire with people trapped, are you just going to stand there because you don’t have PPE or “it’s not your role?” That’s called a coward, pal.

    This was an ineffective operation, no doubt about it. The “geuest commentary” who think you need to segregate engine and truck co ops based on what kind of apparatus you arrive on don’t understand the reality of the system. There is no standardized box assignment nor are ther riding positions. There certainly need to be, but it doesn’t exist in a lot of places. These are ICS driven systems and SOPs are not well understood because of the individual companies and the huge variability of skills of the active members.

    Pa does need to merge fire companies. The idea that you can make more paid depts or hire people under a pension system or union is not realistic. The answer is probably a paid-on-call system, which might add some professionalism without the load on the tax base. As you can see on other videos on Statter, just because you have a paid or combo system doesn’t always equate with better fire protection – sometimes its just more expensive!

  • Former Chief

    A couple of observations; first, this FD, at least the people who showed up to this fire, are not “combat ready”. Far from it. In the beginning of the first video, someone is yelling, “inside the front door to the left”. Is that where they think the victim is? Maybe that is why the PD was taking out the windows on the A-B corner. Also, I heard the guy in the white shirt with the radio strap yell to someone to “take over my truck”. I’m guessing this guy was the IC and drove the first due Engine. FAIL. Someone mentioned the survivability of the victim, probably not good, but if she was found in that front room, rescue was probably not out of the question. I will agree that this appeared to be a deep seated fire with significant headway before arrival, but we don’t always get the easy ones. Poor apparatus placement, no apparent command and control, poor tactics, not much good to say from what we see on these videos.

  • He

    Just a thing I learned from the USMC ,,,, the 7 P’S,,, Proper Planning and Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance

  • CLT_FF

    Not impressed with this. FD – POOR, POOR, POOR showing. I don’t blame the Police one bit, atleast they were doing SOMETHING, which is more than I can say for the FF on this video. Why that initial engine company did not do ANYTHING but fiddle with gear and move back and forth in the yard…damn shame. Get in there and put that damn fire out…or atleast TRY

  • Training

    Even if there are problems we all can learn from eachother. now the video has been removed, how do we use it to learn.

    • CLT_FF

      I guess we could have learned what NOT to do. I’m sorry I’m being soo critical, I just believed they really, REALLY dropped the ball on this fire. I know I’m being critical on some brother firefighters and I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say anyone can find flaws in my opinions and thoughts at times…but if you’re afraid to go in and knock that fire down…you’re not a firefighter, it’s ok – go do something else, find another profession. Don’t assume you’re a firefighter because you have pretty trucks of varying colors and a lot of LED lights, wearing cool looking turnout gear. Whitemarsh Township – you dropped the ball on this fire and don’t start blaming the Police…they at least did something. Learn from this.